Instead of a cross on the forehead, parishioners at Barrington church will receive ‘business card’ ashes

East Bay

BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Those who are observing Ash Wednesday next week will notice some substantial differences from years past thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence announced Thursday that priests will be sprinkling ashes on churchgoers’ heads this year, instead of drawing the traditional cross on their foreheads.

Priests will also not be blessing members of their congregation.

In an effort to keep their parishioners safe, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Barrington is taking a unique approach to its own observance this year.

The Rev. Patrick Greene said while last year’s modified “Ashes To Go” service was a success, he’s found an even safer way to provide ashes for worshippers at St. John’s.

He said this year, he will be passing out business cards with ashes on them.

“I came up with the idea and got it approved by my bishop to get some business cards made,” Green said. “It will have our name and website on the front and the words we say: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.'”

Greene said he ordered 500 business cards just to be safe.

“It doesn’t look as good as on the forehead, but it shows up,” he said, adding that he’s placing the cards in plastic snack bags to limit contact.

“I don’t want to put anyone at risk, but you know obviously we believe this stuff is important and I think we can safely make changes like this to still be available and meet those needs,” he said. “Even if we run out of cards we can still talk about lent and what that means.”

Greene said parishioners can pick up their cards from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Ash Wednesday. The church will also live stream its Ash Wednesday service on its Facebook page at 7 p.m.

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